Evangelical Leaders Call for a Restitution-Based Immigration Plan
November 6, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of prominent evangelical pastors and denominational leaders are calling for practical immigration solutions for undocumented immigrants in their communities.
The Evangelical Call for Restitution-Based Immigration Reform, organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table, proposes a way forward for immigrants in the United States who lack status. It would address longstanding challenges without resorting to either mass deportation — which inherently would separate families — or amnesty, which would diminish respect for the rule of law.
The statement comes after months of increased fears in immigrant communities over deportation policies. It is affirmed by a broad range of evangelical denominational leaders, parachurch ministry leaders, Christian college and seminary presidents and prominent pastors who lead millions of evangelical Christians throughout the United States.
“As evangelical Christians, our approach to immigration policy is driven by biblical principles,” they note — principles including respecting human dignity, respecting family unity, honoring the law and celebrating opportunities for redemption.
The statement urges lawmakers to enact policies that would allow immigrants in the country unlawfully to earn Lawful Permanent Resident status if they acknowledge their violation of U.S. immigration laws and pay a significant fine as restitution.
The statement also urges a solution for Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, without the requirement of a fine. Such a solution is particularly urgent given the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Justices will hear arguments on the Trump administration’s ability to end the program beginning Tuesday.
It also affirms the importance of ensuring secure borders, noting the government’s God-ordained responsibility to protect its citizens.
“Deporting all immigrants here in the country illegally is neither feasible nor morally just,” the statement concludes. “Many immigrant families have been here for decades, and many are members of local churches. We must develop a solution that fits the problem we have, solves it by upholding the rule of law, creates a process of restitution, and gives the possibility of integration so immigrants can fully participate in American life.”
An initial list of prominent leaders who have affirmed the call is available here.
The Evangelical Immigration Table invites other evangelical Christians to add their names to the statement – which they can do here – with the intention of delivering the call to elected officials with a strong show of support from evangelical Christians throughout the country.
The following are quotes from several of the Evangelical Immigration Table leaders who signed the letter:
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals:
“Lots of immigration proposals don’t work. Restoration-based immigration reform will work. Rooted in biblical principles, this commonsense reform can bring America together for good.”
Scott Arbeiter, President, World Relief:
“For evangelical Christians who take seriously the authority of the Bible, our approach to immigration policy must be neither dismissive of the law nor punitive toward vulnerable immigrants. Rather, it must be redemptive: giving vulnerable people, including many who are members of our own churches, the opportunity to get right with the law. The proposal being released today by a very broad range of evangelical leaders strikes the right balance. It is neither amnesty nor mass deportation, but a restitution-based legalization process. I hope that many evangelical Christians throughout the country will lend their voices to this call and that Congress will listen, finally enacting the immigration reforms that our country desperately needs.”
Shirley V. Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities:
“Our desire for just and compassionate immigration reform continues to be driven by biblical principles. We believe that each person is created in the image of God, implying dignity, value and worth. We also believe in the power of redemption and the opportunity to make things right. We understand that this issue urgently needs a solution that’s neither a blanket amnesty nor a mass deportation, which inherently would separate many families and harm numerous people within our local communities, universities and churches. We continue to advocate for an immigration solution that both keeps families together and respects the rule of law.”
Russell Moore, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“This call for restitution-based reform is important. That’s because the security of our nation requires both a strong border and a society healthy enough to encourage those living in the shadows to come into the light. Millions of our undocumented neighbors in our communities and our churches want to do the right thing. They just don’t know what the right thing is, because our government can’t make it up its mind about that. We would do well as a country to make a way for them to earn the chance to do so. This could happen easily through financial and other civic requirements to stay lawfully.”
Jo Anne Lyon, Global Ambassador, The Wesleyan Church:
“For far too long, our country’s immigration system has failed to live up to our national values: it has separated families while failing to honor the law. A restitution-based approach to undocumented immigrants would both keep families together and restore the rule of law. I’m praying that the Congress and the White House will work together on a bipartisan basis to finally resolve this longstanding problem.”
Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference:
“It’s long past time for Congress to put aside partisan differences and find a solution for immigrants living in the country unlawfully that is neither an amnesty nor a mass deportation, but a process by which God-fearing, America-loving immigrants could make things right. Evangelical Christians of all backgrounds want a policy that both honors the law and keeps families together; this call points the way forward. When such a proposal finally becomes law – as I believe it will – there will be celebrations in Hispanic evangelical churches among the many members of our congregations who have been pleading for years for the chance to make restitution and earn the opportunity to stay legally in this country they love.”